What is dream feeding and what are the benefits? Breastfeeding expert Sioned Hilton reveals all…
The term ‘dream feeding’ refers to breastfeeding your baby when she’s in a sleep state. When a baby’s settled and asleep, you can gently lift her and latch her on. Encourage her to suck by gently stroking her lip with your nipple; you can hand express a little to trigger the let-down reflex, so milk is available: all while baby is still sound asleep!
Can dad get involved with dream feeding?
Some families like dad to get involved by using expressed breast milk so mum can get more sleep, but I wouldn’t recommend you start this before breastfeeding is well established. Also, bear in mind that freshly expressed breast milk is preferable, as it has bacteria-fighting properties and is higher in antioxidants, vitamins and fat than milk that has been refrigerated or frozen.
Babies are regulated by their biorhythms and appetite, so they all have their own preferred feeding needs. Studies on breastfed infants – monitoring them between six weeks and six months – that has shown two thirds will continue night feeds during this period, and a quarter of their daily nutrition is taken on between 10pm and 4am. With this in mind, mums can be reassured that although we’d all like more kip, night feeds are very normal.
When should I introduce dream feeding?
Often, mums will introduce a regular nightly dream feed at around 11pm, as it’s thought to help the baby sleep longer before the next feed, and improve your wellbeing too. Occasionally, mums may also need to dream feed due to fullness, feeding to aid comfort.
Other reasons to dream feed could be when a baby’s experiencing latching difficulties. Latching a baby on the breast when they’re in a hungry, distressed state can make both mum and baby anxious, so ensuring a good feed is done when baby is calm and asleep is ideal. This is also the case when re-establishing breastfeeding after supplementation or using a feeding aid such as a nipple shield.
Weigh up the options – being mindful not to create a habit that’s hard to break – and choose what’s right for your family.
Top tips for expressing and storing your breastmilk…
- Refrigerate or freeze your milk straight away. Store it in sterilised BPA-free bottles or storage bags at the back of the fridge or freezer.
- It expands as it freezes, so always leave bottles and bags a quarter empty. To save waste and ease thawing, save in small portions, as they can be combined once defrosted.
- Label bottles and bags with the amount and date.
- Gently swirl milk before a feed to mix the layers.
- Milk can be defrosted in the fridge in 12 hours, or by holding the bottle or bag under warm running water. Don’t defrost at room temperature, or use a microwave or boiling water.
- Once thawed, milk may be kept at room temperature for two hours, or in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
- Don’t re-freeze breast milk.
- Healthy, full-term babies can drink breast milk at room or body temperature.
Sioned Hilton is Medela’s in-house lactation consultant.